PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.

The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.

Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.

It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.

On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.

There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.

The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.

It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.

By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.

I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.

After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.

I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.

I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.

Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.

The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.

“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”

I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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FINAL POST FOR 2020

What a year 2020 has been! I’m well and truly ready to say goodbye to this hellish year. No doubt a common sentiment among us all.

Our family has survived two lockdowns, two terms of remote school learning, toilet paper shortages and experienced a roller coaster of emotions.

My four-year-old son has lost a year of socialisation from kinder and is exhibiting antisocial behaviour. On reflection, I probably spent a disproportionate time with my daughter on her remote school learning and neglected my son. I feel an overwhelming sense of mother’s guilt over this.

My eight-year-old daughter, like all of us, has developed some unhealthy eating habits and become a mini couch potato. She might also be addicted to screen time.

My husband has dark bags under his eyes and lives with constant stress. He doesn’t say anything but I know the lockdowns have affected his mental health. It’s not easy working from home and having a four-year-old interrupt meetings and being loud in the background.

As for me, I’ve had some tough moments. My anxiety peaked at the beginning of the pandemic but seems under control now. I started career transitioning from pharmacy to education but had to defer until next year.

Overall, while we have been impacted in some way by the pandemic, I can’t really complain. We don’t know anyone who has been affected by the virus itself. We haven’t lost jobs or our home as a result of the pandemic. We can afford food and pay our bills.

When so many others haven’t been as fortunate, it’s easy for me to keep perspective. While our family faces some challenges, they aren’t insurmountable. As a family, we will deal with it together next year.

I will be off social media and won’t be posting for a few weeks. Look forward to catching up on everyone’s posts in 2021!

I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

THAT CRAZY AUNT

We are in stage 4 lockdown where I live, which means people can only go out for four reasons – medical, work, and food and exercise within 5km of their residence. Besides homeschooling the children and the odd walk around the block, I’ve not discovered much inspiration or writing seeds for blog posts. I thought I’d use this time to work on my storytelling/writing skills using past experiences with some creative licence. Hope you enjoy my stories!


“Enough with the spying! Bring these plates out,” yelled Mum, upon seeing me half-crouched underneath the window sill.

I let the curtains fall back into place and did as Mum asked, bringing plates of tofu and cabbage to the dining table. I paused and pondered, repositioning cutlery and food around the hot-pot to make it visually appealing. Satisfied with the result, I wandered back to my spot by the window to watch for arriving guests, careful not to be seen. I didn’t want to look like a weirdo or anything.

I invited just about everyone, even the mean girl from class because statistical probability and all that. I wasn’t entirely confident with the RSVPs, what if they pulled out? I didn’t want to be known as the loner girl who had a party that no one came to. How horrifying would that be? I couldn’t go back to school ever again!

“Don’t touch the food Aunty Ut!” I called out after noticing her small stature hovering around the food. Aunty Ut was worse than a bloodhound with a penchant for free meals and table manners rivalling that of Cookie Monster on a binge fest. I didn’t appreciate her presence here cramping my style. Not that I had any style other than geek and meek. Still, having a crazy and uncouth aunt saying and doing strange things wouldn’t help with my social status or keeping friends.

“What? I didn’t touch anything! I’m just looking!” exclaimed Aunty Ut, looking sheepish at being caught.

I gave her a withering glare before turning down the volume on the TV, kicking the mess of microphone cables to the side. Dad had turned on the Vietnamese karaoke music to a deafening level. Thank goodness our neighbours were hard of hearing.

“Go check the garage. I’ve finished setting it up.” Dad mumbled through a mouthful of duct tape while bent over on the ground sticking power cables to the carpet. The extension cords snaked along the walls, outside the window and to the garage, where several large speakers were set up to play music for the dancing.

I bypassed Mum and Aunty Ut, ignoring their bickering over the right amount of MSG for soup stock and headed towards the garage. All the junk was pushed farther back into the single two-car deep garage and a tarp hung from the ceiling, giving the feel of an empty warehouse, albeit small.

“Your friends are here!” My seven-year-old brother hollered before running off.

Filled with excitement and nerves, I raced out to greet my guests. To my delight, most of the invitees had come to my birthday party. Having no experience with attending or hosting a birthday party, I started the hot-pot immediately after everyone’s arrival to avoid awkward conversations or unnecessary foot shuffles.

I cringed inwardly upon seeing some of the girls wrinkling their noses at the unfamiliar foods. Some couldn’t eat seafood while others didn’t know what hot-pot was.

“This jar is expired!” One of the mean girls was holding up a jar of hoisin sauce and showing everyone around the table.

Blushing with embarrassment, I grabbed the jar off her and apologised. “Uh, I don’t know how that got there.”

I gave the jar to Mum and asked quietly if we had another one that was in date. I winced when her annoyed voice boomed across the room, loud enough for those standing next door to hear.

“What? Why? It’s still good! You young kids not understand hard work and money. When I was younger, I ate everything!” Mum’s diatribe continued until she ran out of puff. Luckily it didn’t take long.

Returning to the room, I put on my happy face and pretended like no one heard Mum and her ranting. All mothers rant, right? So it’s not something these girls haven’t heard before.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Feels like a sauna!”

Aunty Ut had turned on the ducted heating to thirty degrees. Who in their right mind would turn on a heater while eating hot-pot on a mild Spring day? I swore she had a few missing screws.

“What?! It’s good to sweat for the pores!” Aunty Ut and her terrible excuses.

Thankfully, we finished the hot-pot without further problems. I ushered my new friends to the makeshift dance floor and with the radio blasting in a darkened room, the atmosphere changed and the party improved.

“What are you doing?” asked a girl named Leila, who stopped her dancing to look at me.

With arms flailing and legs shuffling from side to side at supersonic speeds, I replied, “Dancing Hip Hop?” I might have replicated Urkel’s Dance.

“Oh no girl, this is how you do it. Slow your movements and bend lower.” Leila and a few others took pity on me and gave a few pointers on how to look cool dancing to R&B music.

Amidst learning how to pop and lock, the sound of Vietnamese pop music started blaring through the speakers, causing the dancing to grind to a halt.

“Dad! No one wants to listen to Vietnamese folk songs!”

It seemed like a good time as any for cake.

“Happy birthday!”

The smiles on everyone’s faces and well-wishes filled me with warmth, and I beamed with happiness. I wouldn’t have called the party a complete success, considering a few unexpected setbacks, but overall, it had turned out ok. I could see myself being close friends with some of these girls. Maybe if Mum and Dad stayed put this time, I could even have a best friend.

I leaned over the cake and readied to blow out the candles. From the corner of my eye, I could see the outline of Aunty Ut moving into my periphery, lips in the shape of an O and in slow-mo horror, let out a gigantic snozzy sneeze all over my cake. In her efforts, she snuffed out the flames of fifteen birthday candles.

There was a collective gasp as boogers landed on the cake followed by the wailing sound that escaped from my lips. It was of little surprise that not a single person wanted a slice of cake, including the birthday girl.

I thought expired food, Mum’s ranting and sitting in furnace-like temperatures were bad enough, but BoogerGate and Dad belting out karaoke songs upon the guests departing took the party to a level beyond salvageable.

As far as parties go being memorable, at least people will be talking about mine for some time.

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